Pirates 4D

Thorpe Park

Join Captain Lucky and his crew on a 4D pirate adventure, in search of treasure on a Desert Island…

Theme ParkThorpe Park
Park AreaCalypso Quay
Type4D Cinema
Opened20 March 1999
Closed2007 (replaced by Time Voyagers)
ManufacturerIwerks Entertainment
4D Theatre SystemTechnology Design Associates
Advanced Entertainment Technology
StarringLeslie Nielsen - Captain Lucky
Eric Idle - Pierre
Adam Wylie - Davie
WriterEric Idle
DirectorKeith Melton
Production CompanyRenaissance Entertainment
Busch Entertainment Corporation
Duration17 minutes
Pirates 4D entrance sign

Pirates 4D entrance sign

Pirates 4D opened at Thorpe Park in 1999 in the old Palladium Theatre building that had hosted various live stage shows since its opening in 1988. Pirates 4D saw the transformation of the theatre into the UK’s first 4D cinema.

Visitors donned 3D glasses and were treated to various “4D” special effects including buzzing seats, air blasts and water that came both as squirts from the seat in front and as sprays from the ceiling.

The interior of the cinema was themed to look like a Caribbean style fort, with an animatronic parrot called Justa (referencing one of the film’s ongoing jokes) who would entertain guests before the film began: “Move right along, it’s one seat each madam”. “Don’t put your glasses on, until you get in your seats.” “Don’t worry sir, everybody looks just as ridiculous as you do … well almost!”

The Justa Parrot animatronic inside the cinema talked to the audience as they took their seats

The Justa Parrot animatronic inside the cinema talked to the audience as they took their seats

The film told the story of a band of pirates who land on a desert island in search of treasure, and featured a cast including Leslie Nielsen as Captain Lucky and Eric Idle (who also wrote the script) as the French first mate Pierre. It soon becomes apparent that the island is not entirely uninhabited: Davie, a cabin boy who was previously marooned on the island by Captain Lucky is out for revenge and sets a number of traps for Lucky and his pirate crew.

The featured traps offered some great opportunities for nicely synchronised 4D effects. One pirate was attacked by bees (cue buzzing seats and giant 3D bees flying out from the screen), Pierre was caught in a trap with a load of pigeons that proceeded to poo all over him (one of the most convincing effects in the entire film, as water drops from the ceiling over the audience), and yet another pirate was catapulted through the air on a cactus (with accompanying air blasts).

Inside the auditorium

Inside the auditorium

As the pirate crew are picked off one-by-one by Davie’s traps, their cries of help are often heard in the distance by Captain Lucky and Pierre. “What was that?” asks Pierre, to which Captain Lucky always replies with one of the film’s most memorable catchphrases: “Just a parrot”.

Towards the end of the film, Captain Lucky and Pierre enter Dead Man’s Cave, in which the pirate’s treasure has been stored. Pierre discovers the skeletons of the Captain’s former crew, and Lucky’s plan to do away with his new crew and keep the treasure for himself is revealed. However, as Lucky opens the treasure chest he discovers is has been booby-trapped by Davie, and his wrists are shackled as he is pulled out of the cave and into a nearby lake (at which point even more water is sprayed from seats and the cinema’s ceiling).

Pirates 4D sat in Calypso Quay

Pirates 4D sat in Calypso Quay

Meanwhile, the pirate crew have discovered Davie and are about to attack him. By this point Captain Lucky has escaped his shackles and begins a piratical swordfight with Davie, who is desperately trying to explain to the crew about Lucky’s true intentions. They are having none of it, until Pierre appears with the skeletons of the Captain’s former crew.

In the film’s closing scene, the crew have returned to the ship and make Lucky walk the plank, proclaiming Davie as their new Captain. Pirates 4D ends with the crew singing “Hooray for Captain Davie”, a coda to the song which they sang in the opening sequence “Hooray for Captain Lucky”.

As the screen faded to black, Captain Lucky’s head would pop out of the centre, spitting water and proclaiming, “I’ll be back”. Two water cannons fired out from the front, which would often soak the first few rows of the audience.

Although the 4D effects were a bit primitive compared to today’s state of the art, Pirates 4D was an immensely popular attraction and fondly remembered by many. The film was corny but fantastically well produced, had a great storyline and a brilliant cast, and the 4D effects fitted believably with the on-screen action. Even if you had watched it many times before and could quote almost every line, it was almost an essential part of every visit to Thorpe Park.

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